In search of wildflowers at Barnum Creek Nature Reserve
By Jenn Watt
A large group of hikers arrived at the Barnum Creek Nature Reserve on Saturday, May 11 keen to see the property recently donated to the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust by the Dobrzensky family and to learn about the wildflowers, leeks and other spring ephemerals that had popped up on the forest floor.
They were greeted with warm, sunny weather and (mercifully) very few blackflies as they followed the trails and examined plants that local horticulturalist Belinda Gallagher pointed out along the way.
Historian Leopoldina Dobrzensky met the group at the base of the trail to introduce the property, which she said was on the oldest road in the county: Gould’s Crossing.
“In 1864, 28 settlers came to Dysart and most of them settled first on the lakes, but the second wave were farmers and they were all on this road here,” Leopoldina said. “This was the most desirable land at the time, which of course later they realized it wasn’t good for farming, but they were told it was good.”
Leopoldina and her daughter Margaret decided to gift 500 acres to the land trust, while retaining 100 acres of their own. The family bought the property in 1973, Margaret told County Life. She said the decision to give a portion of it to the land trust was an easy decision. “When you love something, you want to protect it,” she said.
Though the property is currently closed to the public, work is underway to develop and sign trails, thanks to funding from TD Friends of the Environment and Haliburton County Development Corporation, said Sheila Ziman, from the land trust.
“With those two grants we are now able to sign three trails … and a creek crossing,” she said, noting the organization hopes the work will be complete by the fall. Once the property is prepared, the public will be able to visit. The land trust is looking for donations to help with the project as well as volunteers to help with creating the trails, water crossing and with monitoring the trails once they’re established.
Gallagher started the walk by telling the group that the plants that poke up first are referred to as “spring ephemerals” because of their fleeting nature. They take advantage of the extra sunlight available before the deciduous trees leaf out. Among the plants she discussed: trout lilies, trilliums, leeks, sweet cicely, blue cohosh, horsetail, fly honeysuckle and sedges.
Although Gallagher noted that several forest plants are edible, she advised the group to be very careful if they intended to do so. For example, while some people pick and eat fiddleheads, which is an ostrich fern in its early stages, there are 15 different ferns in the area. Before you eat a fiddlehead from the forest, you need to be confident you’ve picked the right fern.
“You should know the plant you’re looking at before you start chowing down on it,” she said.
She recommended that those interested in learning more check out the book Forest Plants of Central Ontario by Brenda Chambers.